Living Naturally: What I Have Learned From 5 Years of Cloth Diapering

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Confession:  I love cloth diapering.  So much in fact, that I am going to be a teensy weensy bit sad when my little man is potty trained.  They’re just so blasted cute and there’s something so “right” about a padded, cloth covered bum.

And yes, I have cloth diapered almost continuously for the last 5 years!  I had a brief 3 month break before baby number three came along (pictured above in all his kissable chubby goodness!)

When I started my cloth diapering journey, I went about it all wrong and just about threw in the towel….er…diaper wipe.  When my oldest daughter was about 6 months old, we realized that: A) buying disposables was breaking the bank, B) we wanted something that might help with her sensitive skin and chronic diaper rash, and C) we had started reading more about “all that hippy-natural-living-no toxin stuff” as my hubby called it, and after reading about some of the toxins in commercial, disposable diapers, it got me thinking.

So, I did virtually no research (mistake #1) and spent $100 on ebay to buy some cloth diapers from a WAHM (Work At Home Mom).  I had no clue what I was buying, how to use them, what I wanted, what kind of sizes I should get, how many I’d need, or the function of various style and cuts (mistakes #2-7). Basically, I paid $100 for a cloth diaper education, because, all though the quality was decent, my ebay “find” turned out to be a flop and they were NOT what I wanted.  I muddled through with them for awhile, but finally, Rusty and I both knew that it was worth it to get what we wanted, knowing that they would be put to use over the next few years (and kids!).

I know that can all sound overwhelming, and I’m not going to recreate the wheel by explaining all of the different options.  There are some great blogs out there that have everything spelled out neatly and clearly.  Here are some of my favorites:

Getting Started, FAQs, and Tips

So You Want To Use Cloth Diapers (she gives a GREAT explanation on the various types of diapers, styles, etc)

I’ve now cloth diapered 3 munchkins, and here are some things that I learned along the way: (keep in mind, several of these tips are personal preference, so I’m sharing MY experience, but I’d love to hear about yours – so feel free to leave some  advice in the comments!)

1. It’s worth the money.  First, the upfront cost can be daunting, but you can actually cloth diaper a baby from newborn-18 pounds (which is usually around 9 months old) for under $240 (My favorites – 6 size 1 Thirsties Duo Wraps at $12.75 each and 20 size 2 Hemp Prefolds at $8 each).  Depending on the size of your child as well as how often you plan to launder your diapers, you may need to adjust the sizes or quantities a little earlier or later, but if you stick with the brand I’ve mentioned, you can cloth diaper from 18 pounds until they’re potty trained for under $200 ( 6 size 2 Thirsties Duo Wraps at $12.75 each, and 15 size 2 Hemp Prefolds at $8 each)

The savings are incredible. estimates that you’ll spend $800 in the first YEAR of your child’s life when using disposable diapers. Good grief! Your diapers will pay for themselves almost twice before the age of one AND if you have more children, you’re already set! An exponential savings! source

2. It’s worth the hassle.  Yes, cloth diapers do take some more planning and thinking ahead, but take a look at this…I think it’s worth it to protect my children:

“Disposable diapers contain traces of Dioxin, an extremely toxic by-product of the paper-bleaching process.  It is a carcinogenic chemical, listed by the EPA as the most toxic of all cancer-linked chemicals.  It is banned in most countries, but not the U.S..1

Disposable diapers contain Tributyl-tin (TBT) – a toxic pollutant known to cause hormonal problems in humans and animals.2

Disposable diapers contain sodium polyacrylate, a type of super absorbent polymer (SAP), which becomes a gel-like substance when wet. A similar substance had been used in super-absorbency tampons until the early 1980s when it was revealed that the material increased the risk of toxic shock syndrome by increasing absorbency and improving the environment for the growth of toxin-producing bacteria.3

In May 2000, the Archives of Disease in Childhood published research showing that scrotal temperature is increased in boys wearing disposable diapers, and that prolonged use of disposable diapers will blunt or completely abolish the physiological testicular cooling mechanism important for normal spermatogenesis.18 


 3. Get exactly what you want. Whether you plan to have 1 child or 10, you are going to be using and changing these every few HOURS, for MONTHS.  Don’t settle on something you saw on sale that saved you $20.  Get what you want and what fits the routine and flow of your family life.  If you’re busy and on the go, you might want to consider stocking your diaper stash with All In Ones (AIOs) like these or these, or pocket diapers such as these.  These are typically a slimmer fitting diaper, and they are self contained (no extra pieces floating around – read: easier for a dad to use!) and make packing them for a babysitter, a  day excursion or a vacation a little easier.  On the other hand, if you’re home most days (and also for a cheaper version) then look into diaper wraps and prefolds. (note: you can travel with ANY cloth diaper style, these are just my personal preferences)

4. If you’re going to use cloth diapers, you can use cloth wipes too! Another Confession: I didn’t want to use cloth wipes and stubbornly held out until baby #3.  I’m a tough sell and kept telling myself that I was only spending around $8 per month buying commercial, disposable wipes, and I didn’t want to fuss with cloth ones.  And then…one day…I got my hands on these organic wipes.  They’re INCREDIBLY soft and luxurious….an odd word to describe baby-toilet paper, I know.  But they are so thick and absorbent that I have yet to use more than ONE wipe in a changing session – and my son is almost 30 pounds!!! NO JOKE!  You know those diaper changes where you end up using 6 or 8 disposable wipes.  I never realized how much smearing and how little wiping disposable wipes actually did.  It’s amazing and I’m already washing diapers, so I don’t even notice the few extra squares of laundry.

5. Accessorize!  And by that, I mean get the cloth diapering accessories you’ll need.   For me, that includes:

  • wet bagsone for the diaper bag and one for home or when we’re travelling for a few days and I need to store more than 2-3 dirty diapers.
  • diaper pail – just a small trash can with a lid works great!
  • a pail linerthese are great and can be laundered right along with your diapers.  I like having 2 on hand – one to have as a back-up while the other is being washed.
  • cloth diaper wipes
  • cloth diaper spray – in all honesty, it’s most convenient for the diaper bag, which is where my bottle lives.  You can find some great all natural wipe solution recipes, but truth be told, when diapering at home, plain old water works great!
  • diaper rash cream – do NOT use regular diaper rash cream on cloth diapers!!!  The oils (petroleum derived, no less) as well as some of the additives will coat your cloth diaper and it will start repelling moisture (and it will make your diapers stink after a few days because it’s trapping in bacteria, because it never fully washes out).  There are a few cloth diaper-safe diaper creams out there, but Thirsties gets my vote!  Fortunately, when using cloth, your little one is MUCH less likely to get diaper rash, but my three always had troubles when they were teething, so it’s nice to have something on hand.
  • Detergent – the right detergent will make or brake your experience.  I have used several all-natural brands and don’t have any major complaints about any of them.  However, Thirsties again gets my vote on their pre-wash and super-wash.  You will know that your diapers are clean when they come out of the washing machine and there is NO odor trace what so ever.  Sometimes for a particularly soiled load, I would need to add in an extra rinse, or sometimes an entire wash.  I have yet to have this issue with Thirsties – so far so good!

6. Start out with a few different brands and styles and use them as your baby’s overnight diaper.  If you aren’t ready to replace your entire diapering routine with cloth (it’s a big decision, I know!), then start with a few and use them overnight, and slowly add to your stash.  I did this to start figuring out which brands were my favorites, before I was ready to commit and buy multiple diapers.  First, the overnight test is the hardest and will almost always require some extra stuffing with inserts (doublers, etc) because your baby will have this one on for sometimes as long as 10-12 hours! If the diaper can last that long, you’re on the right track!  Also, it helps you see what cuts and brands fit your child the best.  Some brands are more forgiving than others, and some offer a one-size diaper that fits from birth to potty.  These can save a HUGE amount of money, but depending on the shape of your child, it may or may not give you the best fit.  Buying one to use for over-nights or as an occasional “test” diaper is a great way to see what you prefer.  And second, if using cloth diapers as your child’s overnight diaper is the ONLY cloth diapering you do, that’s a HUGE step in protecting your child from toxins and VOCs (volatile organic compounds).  Their night time diaper sits on them, saturated and clinging, for sometimes as much as 50% of their day!  By using cloth at night, you’re already reducing their exposure exponentially!

One last thing to keep in mind…

It is POSSIBLE.  We travel A LOT.  Meaning, I feel like we live out of our van some weeks, and so for the longest time (even after buying and using cloth diapers at home) I would always use disposables for travelling (and sometimes even trips to the grocery store because I was a paranoid first-time-mom-first-time-cloth-diaperer!)  If you are prepared with a sufficient stash and the needed accessories and wet bags, you will have NO problems travelling (even long distances/vacations) and cloth diapering.  Yes, it does take some strategy and preplanning.  Yes, there have been times when I was up late, throwing over a load of diapers in the dryer (so that my little man wouldn’t be stuck in his birthday suit while the diapers dried the next morning), and yes, I have had crazy weeks where I give in and buy disposables.  However, you did read that part about spending $800 on disposables in the first year, right?  That’s some great motivation, right there!  More than anything, knowing that my children are safer is worth all of the washing and folding.

Do you cloth diaper?  What other tricks of the trade do you recommend?

DISCLAIMER: Thirsties did not compensate me in any way to sing their praises.  They are by far my preferred diaper brand (and you’ll see them at the top of almost every cloth diaper review site) which is why we chose to sell them in our Market, for which I unashamedly gave you many opportunties to shop at.  For example, you could go there now and check it out – – and we have more than just cloth diapers!


This post was linked to Fat Tuesdays at Real Food Forager, WLWW at Women Living Well, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways at Frugally Sustainable, Real Food Wednesdays at Kelly the Kitchen Kop, Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist, Homesteader Blog Carnival at The Morris Tribe, Homestead Blog Hop at The Prairies Homestead, Welcome Home Link Ups at Raising Arrows, Mentoring Mamas Monday at Simply Living for Him, Seasonal Celebrations at Natural Mother’s Network, Sunday School Blog Hop at Butter Believer

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19 Responses to “Living Naturally: What I Have Learned From 5 Years of Cloth Diapering”
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  1. We have been cloth diapering for almost 5 years and four kids and I love it. I love seeing all my diapers hanging up to dry, knowing I didn’t have to throw anything away (including money). We also travel a lot and they are simple to use on the road, it just takes confidence.

  2. I agree! I love seeing my diapers on the line and knowing that we are doing it “the old fashioned way” 🙂 Just checked out your blog – very cool! I’ve never been to the Czech Republic, but my dad has. I spent a summer in Mostar, Bosnia and fell in LOVE with that region! What an awesome experience for your kids! After taking a look at your blog, I’m ready to break out my passport! 🙂 all the best! – kelsi

  3. janet

    I have liked my cloth diapering experience with my first 2, but I LOVED cloth diapering once I learned about wool covers for my third babe. Nothing like knitting your own covers and they work WAY better than any other covers I ever had. My #1 piece of advice for cloth diapers – go to WOOL!

  4. agreed! The only reason I didn’t mention it in my post is because since I use Thirsties brand, I’ve used my wool cover less and less. I will occasionally put it on my son at night time, but have had fewer leaks since I started stuffing his diaper with an extra hemp insert at night. That being said though, I LOVE mine and wish I knew how to knit, so that I could have made my own! thanks for the tip!

  5. Great article! We loved cloth diapers and cloth wipes! It’s amazing to me how most American parents put up with inferior fake diapers and horrible slimy wipes because they’re afraid to try cloth because they think it will be gross. I guess it’s a great triumph of advertising.

  6. We don’t use our MCNs when we travel by air since we have too much luggage with baby anyway. I did give myself a ‘treat’ when we had a weekend at the beach because I didn’t want to wash, but otherwise we use MCNs most of the time.

  7. I’m with you – we have used our cloth diapers while travelling and it’s possible (but always nice to take a break and not think about it too! )

  8. A. States

    I cloth diapered my twins, except when travelling and at night. I cut some prefolds into hourglass shapes, attached velcro and used vinyl dipaer covers. This made it easier for hubby to help out with the diapering. My babies are almost 15 now. The diapers are still in storage. I would like some creative uses for them, other than just rags.

  9. We use Bum Genius pocket diapers and I really like them, but they don’t really fit newborns even thought they say they fit newborn to 2 yrs. So I found a tutorial online and sewed some prefold diapers using old towels as liners and some inexpensive, used flannel receiving blankets for the outer fabric. I bought 5 nice covers (they have gussets in the legs which prevented leaks) and used those for a few months until our “fancy” diapers fit. I still use the prefolds and covers though because it turns out I really like them! So you don’t necessarily have to spend lots of money to get started. I’ll be writing up a tutorial on making cloth diapers today as well if anyone wants to check in and see it this evening 🙂

  10. great idea! the first few weeks of diapering a newborn can be tricky! It’s hard to find a good fit when they are so delightfully wrinkly and tiny! Thanks for stopping by!

  11. GREAT article, Kelsi!! We are expecting our first baby next month and I made the decision a long time ago to use cloth (not always a popular one to discuss, as the grandmas and aunties all have traumatic memories of soggy squares of cloth and poky pins in the middle of the night! They’ve all taken a turn trying to talk me out of it, of course!). Thanks for all of the useful links … I am traveling to your cheeky market next to see what fun accessories I Desperately Need 🙂

    I had been considering using disposables for the first little while (peer pressure?) and since I received some as a baby shower gift, I’ll have that option; but I still feel a little nervous about, and selfish for, using disposable diapers for my own convenience during the earliest, most sensitive days of my babe’s life on earth!

    Your post inspires me to be brave and confident to start cloth diapering from day one!

  12. Lots of intelligent advice, thanks Kelsi for this excellent post! Rebecca @ Natural Mothers Network x

  13. aimee

    Hi. My youngest (almost 3) is in pull-ups right now and I’m thinking of potty training him. My second youngest (4) wears pull ups at night time only for bed wetting. I used cloth dipes for both of them when they were babies on and off – depending on whether my hubby was home or not. 🙂 What do you recommend for them now? I used prefolds with wool covers pretty exclusively when they were little. Don’t think that will fly with potty training… I would like to ditch the pull ups completely.

  14. Hip hip hooray for another Thirsties fan! Duo wraps are unbeatable and I absolutely LOVE my Fab fitteds! As for wipes, I just use dollar store baby face clothes. And rarely use more than one. I have yet to use the super wash because it is hard to get a hold of right now but, once I’m done my rockin green, I may need to give it a shot.

    My tip to those new to cloth is to make sure you use enough water in your wash routine. I have found that most stink issues are due to lack of water, plain and simple. Sometime the wet towel in the washer will be enough but sometimes you need to wet yor diapera completely before washing, pour extra water into the washer (watering can works great for this) or use the soak cycle on your washer.

  15. Kat Horn

    I’ve been cloth diapering for a year now (my 1st little) and I LOVE it. It took me a while to find my go-to brand but now that I have I am in fluffy bum heaven. I personally tried all the well known commercial brands and they just weren’t for me. After about 20 different brands a friend of mine mentioned in passing a WAHM&D who have these wonderful cloth diaper system and said I just had to try them. Little did I know 2 months later I would become obsessed with Green Line Diapers. They are the cutest things I have ever seen and I swear you could velcro yourself to the ceiling with their tt (it’s that strong and durable). And I really liked that they had NO elastic to wear out and that the waterproof material wasPUL free (so I’d never have to worry about delamination either). They have made my heavy wetter happy and made me one happy Mama. And I LOVE supporting my fellow WAHMs. Loved the article! Thanks so much for all your insight. I’m going to have to give your updated wipes solution a try. I’ve just convinced myself to switch to cloth wipes. I’m tired of my poor guy crying bc his bum hurts (teething rash from molars) and disposable wipes making it much worse. Here’s hoping!

  16. Cheeky Bums

    Kat – thanks for stopping by and if you give the wipes a try, let me know how they work for you! We had the same teething issues with diaper rash, which is why we switched to cloth wipes. And thanks for the tip about the Green Line Diapers – I’ll have to check them out. We are mostly a Thirsties family, but I’ve had awesome experiences with several WAHMS…and AS a WAHM, I always wanna help a momma out! all the best and good luck with the teething…. :{ -kelsi